Jerry and Ann Moss’ Gormley latched onto American Anthem’s outside from the start of Saturday’s $100,690 Sham Stakes (G3) and never let up the pressure to score a photo-finish win in the one-mile contest at Santa Anita Park.
The Sham quickly proved a match race between Gormley and American Anthem, as the pair led the way up front through quick splits of :22.54, :45.46, 1:10.13 and 1:22.70 . American Anthem maintained a short lead over his rival until rounding the turn, when Victor Espinoza began urging Gormley on.
Mike Smith also got busy on even-money favorite American Anthem and the sophomores battled it out to the wire, with Gormley just inching forward enough to get his head in front on the wire.
The John Shirreffs trainee stopped the clock in 1:35.89 over the sloppy, sealed track and paid $5.20 as the 8-5 second choice.
“I expected him to run the way he ran today,” Espinoza said. “I know he’s still improving but I think he only gets better and better. Hopefully, he gets a lot better, but with this race and his next, he has a lot of potential to keep growing.
“It didn’t surprise me how well he broke out of there today. When he’s feeling good, he breaks quickly and already running. In the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile [G1]) he broke slow but today he came into the race in really good shape and got into it right away.”
Gormley opened his career with a pair of wins last fall, including the FrontRunner Stakes (G1) on October 1. He closed out 2016 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), where the bay son of Malibu Moon bobbled at the start and eventually faded to seventh.
Gormley earned 10 points toward a starting berth in the 2017 Kentucky Derby when taking the FrontRunner and another 10 points in this spot, which boosted him into second with 20 points. Only Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Classic Empire has him beat with 30 points.
“That was a great race. He’s still young. You never know what they’re going to do so it’s always interesting. We’re very proud of him,” Shirreffs stated.
“He’s quick. He starts quick, he gets away quickly. But then he checks himself as he gets into the race and he relaxes. It was great to see him pick it back up again and get it done.”
“This type of thing never gets old,” Jerry Moss said. “He’s got a lot of heart and I know he’ll go further than this. John’s doing all the right things as usual. This was a beautiful horse race and the fans got a thriller. No idea where we’ll run next.”
American Anthem entered the Sham off a first-out maiden win at Del Mar on December 3 and debuts on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard in 18th place with four points.
“For only his second time out, that was pretty impressive. If we’d been on the outside…I think that probably would’ve helped a little bit getting beat a half a nose,” Smith remarked.
Bred in Kentucky by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estates, Gormley is the first registered foal out of the stakes-winning Bernstein mare Race to Urga. His fourth dam is champion turf mare Estrapade, who beat the boys in the 1986 Arlington Million (G1) and finished third in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1).